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Mathieu van der Poel, Pauline Ferrand-Prévot blast off in MTB World Cup opener

Friday's short track event in Albstadt made for a preview of the World Cup cross-country race Sunday.

Mathieu van der Poel didn’t get lazy during his short break after the spring classics.

Van der Poel blasted to victory in the Albstadt World Cup short track event Friday, just one month after closing his road season with second-place at Tour of Flanders. The multi-discipline maestro beat Victor Koretzky and multiple world champion Nino Schurter in what was his first mountain bike race in some 18 months.

Also read: If you thought watching Mathieu van der Poel on the road wass fun, wait until this weekend’s MTB World Cup

World champion Pauline Ferrand-Prévot scored her first victory for Absolute-Absalon after transferring from Canyon-SRAM this winter. The Frenchwoman battled back after Linda Indergand had led for much of the race, catching and beating the Swiss rider in the final lap.

Kate Courtney finished fourth, just a split second off the podium.

Also read: Why the Albstadt MTB World Cup is so important for U.S. Olympic hopefuls

For Mathieu van der Poel, the German race this weekend and the Nove Mesto World Cup round May 16 are vital opportunities to score Olympic qualification points.

Friday’s sprint race made for a preview of the cross-country race Sunday, and van der Poel has earned himself a spot at the front of the start grid with his short track success.

“I am very happy to be back and to win immediately,” he said after the race Friday. “The short track suits me, but on Sunday it will be completely different. Then it will be more climbing and less on strength. But it is nice to be able to start in the leader’s jersey and I am also happy with the important points for Tokyo.”

Christopher Blevins was the best-placed rider from the U.S in the men’s race, finishing 16th.